Friday, 28 December 2012


The scariest moments
in air travel in 2012
December 19, 2012 Melanie Verran Yahoo! New Zealand
If you’re already a bit jittery when it comes to flying, stop reading here.
The year 2012 has been one of the safest on record for airlines – but there have still been plenty of terrifying incidents at 30,000 ft.
Plane plunges have to be one of the worst nightmares – and last month 30 people were injured in “10 seconds of terror” when an airliner plunged 1000 metres over the Atlantic.
The plane hit turbulence right as NEOS Air cabin crew were serving meals and plates went flying – along with anyone who wasn’t buckled in.
A similar incident happened on a United Airlines flight to London in July when itdropped 20,000 ft over the Atlantic and had to divert to Canada.
A “mechanical problem in the engine” was blamed for that one.
It was another mechanical failure that caused a four-hour 'vomitorium' on one flight in June when it lurched wildly from side to side.
The flight, that had been heading to New York, had to circle near Las Vegas for four hours to burn enough fuel to be able to land safely.
"The plane turned into a vomitorium. For five hours. And, after all that, I'm still in Vegas," Sarah Elizabeth Cupp wrote on Twitter.
But the passengers on an Emirates flight from Sydney to Dubai last month had an even more terrifying experience when they saw flames shooting from one engineafter it exploded.
The airline said it was an “engine fault”, but Auckland John Fothergill said flames lit up the entire cabin of the A380.
An Emirates Airbus A-380.  Photo / Getty
"You'd have to say there were two or three-metre flames.”
The All Nippon Airways plane bounced as it touched down, and the video shows the fuselage bent close to its wings and what appears to be ripples in the aluminium.
The discovery of the door of a Boeing 767 was also concerning when it plummeted to the ground in a Washington suburb – but even more worrying was that it wasn’t immediately clear which plane it had come from.
From Yahoo News

Peter’s Piece

It’s little wonder that some people are afraid to fly. Inaccurate and over-dramatic reporting will scare more people than airlines ever could.

‘Plane plunges’ are great for selling newspapers, but the term throws little real light on the reality of an incident.

The reporting of the ‘vomitorium’ incident simply doesn’t add up. Why would an aircraft carry so much fuel that it would have to stay airborne long enough to reach its intended destination in order to be light enough to land?

There was real peril in the skies when 

the pioneers in this book took to wings

Now available as an e-book from

The United Airlines flight that dropped 20,000ft over the Atlantic because of a fault in the engine would lead people to believe that UA flies the Atlantic with single-engine aircraft.

Then we have the case of the plummeting door and the increased concern because it was unclear which plane had lost it. Well, perhaps that was because all the aircraft in the region were flying normally and short of all pilots doing a wing-walk up there, there may be no way of knowing which plane it belonged to.

Modern airliners have many doors of varying sizes in many locations on the fuselage, wings and engines, and only a few of them are critical to the safety of a flight. A falling door could be of some concern to people on the ground and I wouldn’t recommend standing in the way of a plummeting door for the purpose of getting a free ear-piercing.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


China is building a motorway across the Tibetan plateau. For some, reaching Lhasa by road is the ultimate dream

LIU BO’S wife begged him not to do it. She said he was ill-prepared for the dizzying altitude and the treacherous roads. He would be on his own, possibly hundreds of kilometers from help if anything went wrong with him or their Fiat Bravo. But Mr Liu was determined. The couple plan to have a child next year. Now, he felt, was the time to drive the family car thousands of kilometers across China to Tibet. He recalls telling her: “There’s only one question about going to Tibet. It is, ‘When?’ Nothing else is a problem. All you need is determination. There’s not much to prepare.” His list: some money, some clothes and medicine to cope with altitude sickness.
Mr Liu, a 32-year-old car salesman, lives in a suburban commuter-belt north of Beijing; a member of a middle class that barely existed until the end of the 20th century. A few hundred meters from his home is the G6 Expressway, part of a web of motorways that has expanded just as exponentially: from around 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) in 1996 to 85,000km at the end of 2011. In a couple of years it will surpass the length of America’s interstate network. China overtook America in 2009 to become the world’s biggest consumer of cars.
Lots of travel but no highways 
in Nathaniel's time

Now available as an e-book from

This combination of a new middle class with cars and new high-speed roads is begetting exotic dreams. For growing numbers like Mr Liu, Tibet is where the highways lead. They see it as a world away from their smog-shrouded, car-jammed, money-driven cities: high, remote, mysterious, alluring yet forbidding, its air brilliantly clear yet menacingly starved of oxygen. There is no shortage of challenging destinations for drivers in China, but Tibet is widely regarded as the ultimate one. China’s rapidly growing car-hire industry plays to such fantasies. “Follow your heart, not your route,” says a poster in a Beijing rental office. In January China Auto Rental, one of the biggest such firms, opened an office in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.
The G6 itself shares the dream. Since the mid-1990s it has come together, bit by bit, each stretch with different names. Then, two years ago, they all took on the same one: the Beijing-Tibet Expressway. The road does not yet make it to Tibet. It sweeps across northern China, veers southwards, climbs up onto the Tibetan plateau and then peters out in the high-altitude grasslands, about 1,800km from Beijing near Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. It is still only halfway to its longed-for destination, Lhasa, and hundreds of kilometers short of the border of Tibet proper. But it and other expressways extend close enough to Tibet to lure distant car-owners onto the plateau for the final assault by old, narrow roads across mountain passes . . . .
Full story in The Economist
Peter’s Piece

How China is changing. When I traveled across China with a tour in 1994 I remember only a small, poorly constructed expressway near Beijing.
In the central and western provinces a typical highway had a single lane of blacktop on a crown with gravel to the sides.
Trucks were often overloaded with the load protruding out from the sides. The drivers would approach head-on at speed, swerving at the last moment, and it all seemed to be timed so that the loads swayed apart a split second before impact.


Password Strength:
How Strong Is Your Password?

Internet security has always been a continuously evolving issue we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another. There are new and stronger security measures created on a daily basis, and yet they keep being overridden by crackers all over the world. This is usually not due to the security strength of the server or the code on it. It usually comes down to the user and what password he or she has chosen for the account. You might start to wonder how clever people think they are when they choose passwords like “123456” and “password” and think it’s a good decision. The thing is, your password strength is only as hard to crack as it is for you to remember. The harder it is to remember, the harder it will be to crack. It’s as simple as that.

There is a significant password strength increase when you go from 5 to 6 characters in your password. And when you hit 9 characters (upper case password), it will take a computer approximately 178 years to crack it. That should be enough time to spend on whatever you want to do on the Internet, wouldn’t you think? So, if you are one of those people who is sporting a somewhat weak (according to this infographic) password on your different online services, it’s a good time to change them all.

Password strength comes down to creativity. Family members, keyboard patterns and swipes are infinitely out of the question. These are the first words a cracker tries, and you would be surprised if you knew how many people set their password strength to an almost playful challenge for a cracker. An infographic from SecurityCoverage(design by Space Chimp Media) showcases data from a few of the largest password breaches in the history of the Internet. The interesting thing is that out of the 30 million accounts that were cracked on, an insane 290,731 people had the password “123456.” My head spun out of orbit over that.

Do yourself a huge favor and take a gander at your password farm and see if you can’t extend them to 9 characters (and to include upper case letters and symbols), and you could probably give crackers a headache for at least 178 years or so. Make sure your password strength is up to par with the level of personal information you have submitted to your online services. You will definitely save yourself a lot of time and sorrow by taking ten minutes to up your password strength and look through them all every once in a while. Once again remember, your password strength is only as good as it is hard to remember the password itself . . . .

From Bit Rebels

Peter’s Piece

There is lots of misinformation about passwords. Consider this:

You should have a separate password everything that you do on the internet including bank accounts, work emails, private emails, website, blog, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pinit, Redit, Delicious, Amazon, Ebay, Paypal, stock exchange, Stumbleupon, all government sites requiring a login, and an endless list of other places you may have to remember a password for.

Forget password worries
Relax with a good book


Now available as an e-book from

Then we are told that we must never write our passwords down anywhere and we should commit them to memory and change them every month. This could be a reason why otherwise intelligent people resort to 123456. These people have real logic. Next month they can change to 7891011. Personally, I prefer 101102103. No hacker would ever break that one.

Some advisers would have you walking down the street mumbling incomprehensible passwords under your breath as you try to commit them to memory before it’s time to change them all again.

But seriously, some of this advice should not be taken too seriously. If you have a strong password there should be no need to change it on a schedule. If your bank account password has been broken your money will be stolen within minutes rather than at the end of the month and you will certainly need to change your password immediately anytime you think it may have been compromised.

Care must always be taken on sites like Facebook that display personal information. The big don’ts here are don’t display your full name, full date of birth, phone number or street address. If your name is William John Smith you should consider being just Bill Smith. Friends looking for you will know from checking your profile if you are the right Smith.

Never display information on a public site that you have registered somewhere as a security question. Likewise, if your parents are prominent people, or their families have lived in the same district for several generations, don’t use your mother’s maiden name as a security question.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


New Zealand on National
Geographic list of places
to visit in 2013
The Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
“Stunning landscapes, world-renowned wineries, and adventure sports abound in New Zealand, and New Caledonia has some of the more remote and beautiful beaches in the world.” Sarah Polger, Senior Digital Photo Editor, National Geographic Travel & Adventure

Hike a glacier, cruise Milford Sound, see the boiling mud and steam of Rotorua, ride a jet boat, and swim with dolphins on a New Zealand coach tour.

Peter’s Piece

New Zealand has been my home for most of my life and nothing gives me more pleasure than showing my country to tourists from all over the world.

Take a New Zealand coach tour in 2013 and I could be your driver/guide. 

A nail-biting historical fiction thriller 

set in New Zealand!

Now available as an e-book from Smashwords


Piers Morgan lashes out on Twitter against petition asking White House to deport him 

Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan lashed out on Twitter today after a petition on the White House’s official website demanding his deportation blew past the 25,000 signature mark necessary to require an official response.
The petition, now over 45,000 signatures, asks the White House to deport Morgan, a CNN host, for what it calls an attack on the second amendment. Morgan, who is British, has been an outspoken advocate for gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings earlier this month. The petition calls his advocacy a “hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution,” and demands that he “be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
In the early going, Morgan seemed to be amused by the petition, retweeting links to it and playfully urging his followers to sign. But, after the petition passed the 25,000 threshold, he returned to Twitter to bash it, calling it ridiculous and stating that his positions on gun control are not anti-constitutional but rather common sense. Morgan also retweeted a number of tweets supporting him.
From Forbes
Peter’s Piece
This is a sure sign that the pro-gun lobby is losing its grip.
But desperate times call for desperate measures and so it’s time to deport all who express an opposing viewpoint.
Here’s a new slogan for the pro-gunners: When in panic mode we close our eyes and ears and fire.
A gripping read all the way to the final dramatic scene!
 Available now as an e-book from: Smashwords


Pitcairn Islands: The world’s least populated country

The Pitcairn Islands in a remote part of the central Pacific Ocean is officially the world’s least populated country with only 66 inhabitants at the last census in 2008. On the United Nations list of sovereign states, Pitcairn comes in last at number 242 for population and at number 211 for population density with just 1.27 people per square kilometer.

But that’s enough of dreary statistics. Pitcairn Island, the only inhabited one in the four island group, has a rich and romantic history.
Although previously inhabited by Polynesians, the islands were uninhabited when a Portuguese sailor, Pedro Fernandes de Queiros, discovered some of them in 1606, but there is now confusion about which islands he discovered. Pitcairn, the second largest and now the only inhabited island, was discovered by Robert Pitcairn who was a 15 year-old midshipman aboard Captain Philip Carteret’s HMS Swallow in 1767.
Settlement of the islands came in 1790 after the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty when Lieutenant William Bligh was set adrift in a seven metre open boat with 18 loyal crewmen. Bligh successfully navigated without charts or compass a 6,700 kilometer journey to Timor.
Meanwhile, the mutineers led by Fletcher Christian sailed first to Tahiti, where where a number of sailors still loyal to Bligh and some mutineers were put ashore and the Bounty sailed again with six Tahitian men, 18 women and a baby. They passed through the Cook Islands and Fiji before rediscovering and deciding to settle on Pitcairn Island which had been inaccurately shown on the charts.  
Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island
Bligh found his way back to England and the British Government sent the HMS Pandora to round up the mutineers for court martial. Fourteen sailors were arrested in Tahiti and repatriated to England to stand trial, but that journey was interrupted when the Pandora ran aground with loss of life on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Subsequently, three mutineers were hanged.
Bligh went on to become Governor of New South Wales where he was again subject to a mutiny by the military and ending of his governorship in what became known as the Rum Rebellion.
The final number recorded as having settled on Pitcairn in 1790 was six men, 11 women and one baby and a new nation was created with mixed British and Tahitian blood.
By 1800 John Adams was the sole mutineer survivor, for all the others except one the leading cause of death was murder including Fletcher Christian who was murdered in 1793 after fathering three children in three years. Likewise, the other mutineers left children to carry on their names and Christian, Warren, Young and Brown are still the most common names.
It was more than five years before the settlers saw the first ship passing by and by then they had survived by fishing and farming. The Bounty was burned in Bounty Bay soon after their arrival in 1790. A second ship passed by six years after the first.
The Seventh Day Adventist church at Adamstown, the
Pitcairn capital
Finally, on 17 September 1814 (24 years after settlement) Sir Thomas Staines commanding two ships sent a party ashore at Pitcairn and wrote a report for the Admiralty. By then the island had a population of more than 50, all descendants of the original settlers.
The Pitcairn population reached a peak of 250 in 1936 and has seen a steady decline since then as people leave permanently for New Zealand, Australia and America.
Pitcairn Island lacks a proper seaport and does not have an airport, but manages to export fruit and gains revenue from tourism and souvenirs.  

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Get Your Writing Noticed: Theme – the most important part of writing!

By Laurence O’Bryan
Theme is, in my opinion, the most important part of writing.
Theme is your argument, your central idea, your subject matter, your tune.
Laurence O'Bryan
For me it doesn’t matter how well you write, if your theme is boring, if your story is about an afternoon in an apartment, as your hero argues with himself about whether to make dinner for his wife, I’m just not that interested.
Ok, I’ll read two pages, if your prose totally sparkles, but I’ll soon lose interest. Shiny, glistening literary baubles lack substance for me. I want a strong theme.
But, you say, other people may be interested in that apartment story. And you’re right. Theme is personal. Which brings us to the central point of theme, it’s all about choice. What you love, I may hate!
And theme is about genre too. Crime fiction, thrillers, erotic fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, they all embody theme at their core.
And theme is related to commerciality as well. If you write and extend one of the popular modern genres listed above, you are simply more likely to get published. Why is such a cruel trick perpetrated on writers? Because publishing is a commercial enterprise. Publishers want to publish books that people are more likely to buy.
And they have found out, over many years, that books written within the above themes, in the above genres, sell well and then some more.
Literary fiction is almost impossible to get published now. Why? Because a work of literary fiction, exploring the world of your apartment on a rainy afternoon for instance, might sell 1,000 copies in a year, where a crime novel in which a body is found in that apartment on the opening page, could sell 20,000 or more in that year. Which would you publish?
I am in awe of writers who are willing to spend decade after decade emulating the literary giants of their youth, writing the great novel of our generation, in the sure knowledge that it will never be published. Never ever.
Knowing your writing will never be seen by anyone beyond a small circle, yet writing on year after year, takes an extra ordinary Buddha like selflessness.
Bur for all those who retain a desire to get published, think long and hard about your theme. If you truly do write uncannily well, you may pull off that story about an afternoon in an apartment, but if you like genre fiction yourself, and would like to be published this decade, pick a popular theme, please! And extend the theme, make it sing, like that old canary never sang before!
That, for me, is a suitable goal for a 21st century writer.
This post is the third on a voyage over the next six months exploring the world of getting your writing noticed. Here is a link to the previous post in this series, on grabbing your reader’s attention. And here is a link to the next post, on pace, what keeps us reading.
Please leave feedback, make suggestions and engage. This series of posts needs you to get involved to make them fly.
And please sign-up using the secure sign-up button above right to receive notifications in your inbox when post’s are released.
More about Laurence O'Bryan:
Peter’s Piece

Laurence O’Bryan’s first crime novel The Istanbul Puzzle won the best novel submitted award at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Irish crime novel of the year in 2012.

His second novel The Jerusalem Puzzle has just been released.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Doomsayers dashed!
Doomsday survivors will now have time
to read this free e-book.

December 21 started out as the prophetic day some had believed would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Friday afternoon, it had become more comic than cosmic, the punch line of countless Facebook posts and at least several dozen T-shirts.
At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.
The doomsayers who had predicted apocalypse were nowhere to be seen. Instead, people showed up in T-shirts reading "The End of the World: I Was There."
Full story:  NZHerald

Download your free e-book from:


Taiwan condemned over executions

Taiwan has executed six death row inmates, the first use of the death penalty this year.
Campaigning human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the move as "cold-blooded killing".
The deputy justice minister said the brutality of the men's crimes meant there was no reason to show mercy.
The executions were carried out in three separate prisons - two in the central city of Taichung and two in the south of the island.
"How can the government credibly claim it wants to see an end to the death penalty when it continues to conduct such actions," said Amnesty International's Roseann Rife in a statement.
"It is abhorrent to justify taking someone's life because prisons are overcrowded or the public's alleged support for the death penalty."
Popular support
All six of the men had been convicted of murder.
The BBC's Cindy Sui, in Taipei, says the executions come at a time of inflamed public debate about the death penalty following the death of a boy in a video arcade.
In Wuhan, China a convicted drug smuggler had only minutes to live
when this photo was taken. She was executed by firing squad in 2003. 
Local media reported the 29-year-old suspect had said he would get life in prison at most "even if he were to kill two or three".
He also reportedly said he would get free room and board in prison.
The reports led to public calls for all of those on death row to be executed.
A spokeswoman for the ministry of justice said that the executions had been carried out on a Friday evening to avoid a strong public reaction.
Though religious and human rights groups oppose capital punishment, most victims' families are in favor, and surveys suggest that most of the population also support the death penalty.
The ministry said it has the obligation to carry out the law until there is public consensus on abolishing the death penalty.
According to the state-run Central News Agency, there are a total of 55 death row inmates following the executions.
Taiwan executed five prisoners in March 2011 and four in April 2010.
The 2010 executions were the first after a hiatus that had lasted since 2005, when it adopted an informal moratorium on the death penalty.
Peter’s Piece

The politicians of Taiwan should ignore popular local opinion when it goes against the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Murder is the ultimate crime whether committed by an individual or a state.

Perhaps people who actively campaign for the death penalty should themselves be tried for incitement to murder.

Friday, 21 December 2012


Denmark's new female billionaire owns ECCO Shoes
Luisa Kroll / Forbes Staff

Some fortunes are made overnight; others are carefully crafted over many years and passed along between generations. The latter is true for Hanni Toosbuy Kasprzak, the 55-year-old owner of global shoe company, Ecco, who Forbes pegs as a billionaire.

This story began . . . .

. . . .Toosbuy turned that simple idea into global shoe brand Ecco. He died in 2004 but his legend lives on in his company, thanks largely to his daughter, who is chairman and owner of Ecco.

The privately held firm, still based in Bredebro, says it is the only major shoe manufacturer in the world that owns and manages every step of the shoemaking process. It racked up $1.3 billion in sales in 2011, up 16% from the previous year. Ecco, which employs 20,000 from more than 50 nations, peddles its comfortable shoes to men, women and children in 94 countries, including the United States. It opened store No. 1000 at the Mall of America in Minneapolis,Minnesota in November 2011 and also has new stores in such places asKazakhstanLebanon and Poland. Forbes contributor Larry Olmsted recently called one of its styles, “The Most Comfortable Golf Shoes” he’d ever worn.

Don't let shoes kill your feet - kick them off and settle down with 
a book that will keep you spell-bound all the way to the last page!
Available as an e-book: Murder at Wairere by Peter Blakeborough

While you can’t put a price on comfort, Forbes estimates Ecco to be worth approximately $1.5 billion, making Hanni eligible for our worldwide billionaire rankings in 2013. If year-end numbers and markets hold up, she should make her debut on the Forbes Billionaires list in March, just one month before her family’s company celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Full story in Forbes